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McDilemma: How Automation is Changing the Fast-Food Experience

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Posted by Andy Peacock

Sep 12, 2018 12:28:17 PM

Maura Fenske author photo

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McDonald's fast food kiosk designed to take customer ordersBefore our weekly Monday morning team meeting, I walked into a local McDonald’s to grab a cup of coffee. At a time of day that is typically busy for the fast-food restaurant, I was greeted by no other customers and, even more strangely, no workers at the counter.

After standing in the lobby for a few seconds waiting for someone to come and take my order, I was met with a lone employee emerging from behind the counter and pointing me in the opposite direction, towards the new automated kiosk that I hadn’t even noticed when I came into the store.

The worker asked me to use the kiosk to complete my order. A little baffled, I went ahead and put my order into the kiosk: one small cup of black coffee. Easy enough, I thought.

 

Then, I proceeded to wait more than five minutes to be served just that single cup of coffee. I couldn’t help but wonder if my order would have been fulfilled faster if I had just been able to order at the counter and talk to a worker.

McDonald’s isn’t the only place where this happens. It’s getting more tempting and even easier for companies to supplement or even replace minimum wage workers with machines. Think about it. We have now become our own bankers, cashiers, vendors, waiters, grocery baggers...you get the idea. And it doesn’t seem to be stopping.

This is an obvious push back to the pressure by employees to increase the minimum wage. By replacing low-skill laborers with a machine, the consumer is actually taking on these minimum-wage jobs (in addition to their actual, existing jobs) and are actually paying to do them.

And what happens when, like the ice cream machine so often does, that kiosk is down, and suddenly there are not enough workers in the store to take and fulfill orders? How good does customer service become then?

I’ve come to this question: when does so-called “convenience” simply become a burden? Do you feel that all these companies are really doing is making you their employee, then taking your money? Is it fair?

These kiosks are estimated to save McDonald’s $2.7 billion in sales (source), but is it worth frustrating and possibly even losing your customers because they don’t get the service they are accustomed to?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Comment below or click here to email me.

Even in a digital age, I believe that customer service is a company’s most important asset.

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